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Trail of Governors grows by 3 with unveiling in Pierre

 Three more statues were unveiled for the South Dakota Trail of Governors in Pierre. They are Dennis Daugaard, Archie Gubbrud and Samuel Elrod. (photo by Patrick Callahan, South Dakota Broadcasters Association)
Three more statues were unveiled for the South Dakota Trail of Governors in Pierre. They are Dennis Daugaard, Archie Gubbrud and Samuel Elrod. (photo by Patrick Callahan, South Dakota Broadcasters Association) (KOTA)
Published: Jun. 14, 2019 at 1:30 PM MDT
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Statues for South Dakota Govs.

,

and

were unveiled at the Capitol Rotunda on Friday.

Gov. Kristi Noem took part in her first

ceremony as the three bronze statues were viewed for the first time by a crowd of attendees. The three former governors’ families took part in the ceremony along with many friends, former staff members, and statue donors.

“We are proud of the history that is being told with the Trail of Governors,” said Rick Jensen, Trail of Governors Foundation president. “Only in South Dakota, can you walk among our state’s former governors. Along the way, you can admire the artwork created by our state’s finest sculptors and take in several interesting history lessons. This project is reality thanks to the donors who generously contribute to the project. They understand the importance of telling South Dakota’s story and recognizing our leaders who have helped shape this state.”

The statues’ sculptors spoke about what inspired them to create the governors’ statues the way they appear in bronze: James Michael Maher, Lee Leuning, Sherri Treeby, and James Van Nuys.

The three newest statues will be added to the 22 statues that are already on the trail beginning at the Legion Cabin by Lake Sharpe, through downtown Pierre and winding around the Capitol grounds.

The trail’s statues are funded by donations made to the trail’s foundation and managed by the South Dakota Community Foundation.

A new addition that began last year during statue unveiling weekend in Pierre is a Run with the Govs event. It will begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday, by the Capitol’s front steps. All proceeds will go to the Trail of Governors Foundation.

Symbolism in Governor Daugaard statue

According to sculptor Michael Maher, the right hand gesture in the Gov. Dennis Daugaard bronze is American Sign Language for “I love you.” 

Daugaard was born to deaf parents and ASL played an important part in his relationship with his parents. He continues to use the sign with his children and grandchildren. 

The left hand of the Daugaard bronze is pinching a penny; Maher’s reference to the former governor’s famed fiscal frugality.  Maher joked with the audience that Daugaard is rumored to still have the first penny he ever earned, but Daugaard wouldn’t give it to the sculptor to use in the statue.  

The last reference is the shovel the bronze figure is depicted holding.  The shovel represents several aspects of Daugaard’s eight years in office; the first being a nod to the summer of 2011 when record flooding inundated most communities along the Missouri River and millions of sandbags were filled.  It also represents the more than 500 trees Daugaard planted on the Capitol grounds in Pierre, many personally.

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